Schadenfreude

2 Samuel 1:9-12 (New Living Translation)
“Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’ So I killed him,” the Amalekite told David, “for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord.” David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day.

David had been unjustly persecuted by King Saul. Saul had sent assassins and mercenaries to hunt down David and kill him. Although David twice spared Saul’s life, Saul still actively sought his death. It was Saul about whom David was writing in Psalm 142.3: “Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me.” He had even married David’s wife Michal (Saul’s daughter) off to another man. To say that Saul had not made life easy for David would a gross understatement.

There’s a German word which, roughly translated, means “taking pleasure in another person’s misfortune”: schadenfreude. It would be easy to understand if David was feeling a bit of schadenfreude when he hears about the death of Saul — this man, this king — who had made his life so difficult for many years.

Saul and David, by Rembrandt, c. 1650

Saul and David, by Rembrandt, c. 1650

But that is not what happens.

Instead… David mourns. He grieves the death of Saul, this would-be father-figure, the chosen leader of the people. David laments the death of the first anointed king of Israel. Whatever Saul’s frailties, whatever his sins and mistakes, David, this next king, mourns King Saul’s death.

There is no schadenfreude here.

Question:
When have you been tempted to be happy at the misfortune of someone who has wronged you?

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